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College basketball: Wildcats head to Providence seeking 3rd straight win

Time:2016-11-30 18:16Shoes websites Click:

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Kevin McNamaraThe Providence Journal

PROVIDENCE — If you need any evidence that college basketball, especially in the season’s opening few weeks, can be tough to figure consider New Hampshire.

The Wildcats delivered one of the more stunning upsets of the season’s first weekend when they went to Philadelphia and upset Temple, 57-52. Six days later, their luck wasn’t as fortunate as they lost 100-41 at West Virginia.

Yet, in a turn of events that can only be described as head-scratching, Temple spent part of its Thanksgiving weekend beating No. 25 West Virginia at the Barclays Center, 81-77.

What to make of this flip-flop? New Hampshire has something going on this season. That’s what concerns Providence coach Ed Cooley as his Friars host the Wildcats at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center on Wednesday night (6:30 tip-off).

The Wildcats (4-2) are predicted to compete with Vermont at the top of the America East standings this season. Providence opened its season with a 80-58 win over the Catamounts but is expecting a more difficult challenge this time around.

New Hampshire appears to have the size and experience that Vermont didn’t bring to The Dunk earlier this month. Iba Camara, a 6-foot-9 junior from Senegal, is a legitimate big man and is surrounded by returning starters Jaleen Smith and Daniel Dion, both seniors, and 6-7 junior star Tanner Leissner. Interestingly, all three ventured to the Granite State from their home state of Texas.

Leissner, the favorite for player of the year honors in America East, is coming in hot. He earned America East player of the week honors after scoring a career-high 31 points (9-for-13 shooting) and grabbing eight rebounds in an 86-70 victory over Detroit Mercy. In a big road win at Winthrop, Leisnner came up big again as he led UNH with 22 points and 14 rebounds for his third double-double of the season.

While it doesn’t have the eye-catching value of the Temple victory, winning at Winthrop is impressive as well. The Eagles recently won at Illinois, 84-80.

Providence, meanwhile, is coming off a 1-1 trip to the Emerald Coast Classic in Florida. The Friars fought through some rough shooting to register a comeback win over Memphis and then were eventually worn down by No. 7 Virginia's top-ranked defense in a 63-52 defeat.

The Friars hope to bounce back in what is shaping up as an important homestand that will bring four games in 11 days heading into semester exams. A four-game sweep is certainly the goal, but it won’t be easy. After New Hampshire, the Friars host No. 21 Rhode Island, Brown and Massachusetts. The Friars are 42-1 in nonconference home games in Cooley’s six years with the only loss coming against Brown in 2014.

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